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Sleep problems

Getting a good night’s sleep is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Most people experience problems with sleep during their lifetime, and while it is very common to have bad sleep from time to time, if you regularly struggle with sleep, as I did for many years, you will understand just how much it can interfere with so many aspects of life.

Finding it hard to get to sleep, waking up several times during the night, and waking up early but not getting back to sleep can make it hard to concentrate during the day because you still feel tired. It can also affect your mood and relationships as you can become irritable, or feel more emotionally ‘up and down’. Lying awake at night while everyone else is sleeping can feel very lonely.

Common causes of insomnia are simple things that fortunately can sometimes be easily changed, such as too much noise or light, a room that's too hot or cold, uncomfortable beds, or too much alcohol, caffeine or nicotine. Insomnia often improves by changing your sleeping habits, and doing things such as:

  • down and relax before bed, and do not do anything that might alert or activate your mind or body (eg, reading work emails, or housework like vacuuming) at least two hours before bed
  • avoid television or using devices right before going to bed as the light makes you more awake
  • make sure that your bedroom is dark and quiet – buy a ‘black out’ blind, wear an eye mask or ear plugs, and try to keep your bedroom cool at night
  • make sure that your mattress, pillows and covers are comfortable and sheets and duvet covers are washed regularly
  • although it is difficult, try to only go to bed when you feel tired and set a regular time to wake up every day – even on the weekends
  • take regular exercise but do not exercise for at least four hours before bed
  • do not smoke, or drink alcohol, tea or coffee at least six hours before going to bed
  • do not eat a big meal or very spicy foods late at night, as this can keep you awake
  • avoid napping during the day as this ‘drains your sleep tank reserves’ for later

These suggestions are relatively straightforward and although for some people could be tricky to stick to, they are surprisingly effective if you are able to be consistent.

Other factors related to insomnia can be a bit more difficult, but not impossible, to change such as work stress, relationship difficulties or worry about the future. Indeed, worrying about the effect of not sleeping can be a major contributor to the problem.

I have personally been successful at tackling years of difficulty with sleep by using psychological approaches and have helped others to do the same.

For more information about how to deal with trauma, contact Dr Alex.